What if I said that I was pregnant, and I was going to give birth in 9 months. Would the expectation be that I would train for this? Probably not. Why is that? For many first time mothers, labor can last for hours, with the average length of active labor being 12 hours give or take. Preparing the body to sustain increasing mass during pregnancy and preparing the hips and the pelvis for vaginal delivery should be part of the “mother to be” training.
In order to have a pain free pregnancy and complication free vaginal delivery here are some requirements:
- Strong thigh muscles to support the weight of the torso
- Hip mobility
- Moveable sacrum
- Strong deep abdominal muscles
- Pelvic floor muscles that will yield
Your training program should include:
Walking with a reciprocal arm swing incorporates whole body movement which enhances circulation, strengthens the legs, and frees the pelvis. Work up to walking 5 miles a day (this does not have to be done all at once).
Optimal postural alignment
We tend to carry our pelvis out in front of our ankles.
A forward pelvis affects:
- the stability of the pelvic girdle which can create pubic pain or sacroiliac dysfunction
- the function of the pelvic floor which can cause the muscles to become shortened and unyielding
- the position of the sacrum relative to the pubis which decreases the distance of the pelvic inlet.
Footwear choices affect alignment. Any shoe with a heel will angle the body forward. The body compensates for this by tucking the pelvis under, bending the hips and knees. Over time this can shorten the muscles on the back of the leg which can pull the pelvis out of alignment creating back pain and pelvic floor dysfunction. Choose shoes that are flat and allow your toes to wiggle.
Squatting improves the mobility in the hips, strengthens the glutes and legs, promotes a wider pelvic outlet and allows the pelvic muscles to yield.
Exercises to address lateral glute strength will prevent the pregnancy waddle and decrease the instability and excessive motion at the pelvis.
Learn how do activate your deep abdominal muscle transverus abdominus without holding your breath. Learn how to utilize this muscle for the pushing stage of labor. The TRA is best activated during the exhale of the breath cycle: draw your belly button to your spine.
Learn how to let the pelvic floor relax in order to allow the baby to pass through without tearing (yes, this takes practice). The pelvic floor should relax/yield on the inhale of the breath cycle. Imagine the ischial tuberosities (SITS bones) widening as the pelvic floor relaxes.